VALDOSTA -- A recent development enhanced the safety of Azalea City residents living west of the railroad tracks.

At 7 a.m. Saturday, South Georgia Medical Center officially opened its fifth Emergency Medical Services station at 366 Enterprise Drive. Located near the intersection of River Street and Norman Drive, the ambulance and its personnel were made a part of the existing Valdosta Fire Department Station No. 6.

Before the weekend opening, Tim Brogdon, Mobile Healthcare Services chief, said SGMC only operated EMS stations on the east side of the railroad tracks. This situation created response delays for paramedics dispatched to accidents and other calls for assistance.

"Everyday motorists are not the only people who encounter problems with the railroad," he added.

Brogdon said the addition was necessary due to the continued growth of the City of Valdosta and exponential increase in EMS activity over the past decade. He said SGMC continuously monitors population growth, traffic congestion, and EMS response times in an ongoing effort to meet the needs of residents and visitors of Lowndes and Echols counties.

"We are excited to open the new facility because it will assist us in managing the increasing volumes of calls in this area, as well as decrease the need for EMS units in Hahira and Lake Park to respond out of their normal work zones when emergency situations occur," he added.

Randy Sauls, chief operating officer, said the new station will provide a vital service to travelers on Interstate 75 as well as residents in the vicinity of Gornto Road, Baytree Road, Lankford Drive, West Hill Avenue, Old Clyattville Road, Knights Ferry Road, and the Azalea City Industrial Park. With the creation of the EMS station, he said approximately 90,000 residents will receive "a six-minute average EMS response time. In an emergency, every minute counts. We know we will save lives by bringing this additional service to the community."

Sauls said the new station will serve an area with an average daily traffic count of 41,000 Interstate travelers and another 125,000 from adjacent city, county, and state roads.

Through a collaborative effort with the Valdosta Fire Department and City of Valdosta, SGMC was able to open the new EMS station for a mere $125,000 -- the cost of a fully-equipped ambulance, Brogdon said. He said it will cost about $250,000 a year to operate and maintain the station.

SGMC EMS staff responded to over 10,000 calls for assistance during fiscal year 2004.

The new EMS station will be staffed with two licensed emergency medical professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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